Why Twitter Suspended the Fake Steve Jobs Account (& Why It’s Back)
Yesterday the “ban hammer” struck one of the best known parody accounts on Twitter, @ceoSteveJobs. The account, well-known for its pithy and biting Apple-related tweets, had over 460,000 followers when GeekSmack first reported that the account had been suspended.
The account has likely angered its share of Apple fan boys and company execs, but it’s not the content of the messages that (necessarily) got the account in trouble. Beginning January 1 this year, an “online impersonation law” went into effect in the state of California, banning people from assuming someone else’s identity online in order to defraud or harm. Several commentators have suggested that the fake Steve Jobs account may have run afoul of the law or that Twitter received a “valid report” complaining of infringement.
More likely, it simply ran afoul of Twitter’s Terms of Service, namely “Parody, Commentary, and Fan Accounts Policy.” You are allowed to create parody accounts on Twitter, but only within certain guidelines.
In a nutshell, you need to make it clear that the account isn’t the real person’s. Although the @ceoSteveJobs did indicate in its profile that it was a parody and most people recognized it as such, the account was cited in a Daily Mail article this summer, making it appear as though Steve Jobs was admitting that antenna problems would force an iPhone 4 recall.
Twitter’s guidelines for parody accounts say that the username should not be the same as the subject of the parody. They should have a qualifier like “not” or “fake.” The profile name, similarly needs to say “not” or “fake.” And the bio should say “This is a parody.” The phony Steve Jobs account only complied with the latter.
Even if you follow these recommendations, Twitter’s guidelines say that it can still ask you to make “further changes to bring the account more in line with these best practices. Accounts with a clear intent to deceive may be permanently suspended.”
Twitter wouldn’t comment on this specific case, although it does appear that the account is functioning again today. It’s under a new name, however – @fakeCEOSteve. The timing is excellent, as I’m curious to hear what Fake Steve has to say about the new iPad 2.